Networking is such an essential part of the Assistant role. We can work in such silos that without a network to support our endeavours, the position can be very lonely. I genuinely believe that every organisation which employs a group of Assistants should have a network in place for those Assistants because we can benefit from each other’s experiences and knowledge. It makes the role so much easier when we can collaborate, share best practice and support each other. This is something I’ve been saying for a few years, and thankfully there are a lot more networks available now than when I started Practically Perfect PA back in 2011. All Assistants should join a network either locally or within their organisation. If you don’t have an internal Assistant network, you should set one up! Here are a few blog posts that can help you get started:
- How to create an internal Assistant network
- Are you a networked PA?
- A business case outline for an internal PA network
In today’s blog post, I want to talk about what you do with your internal network. I often hear Assistants say, we have an internal network, but it isn’t beneficial. That sucks! It is such an achievement to get a network up and running, and it is such a shame if it isn’t working to benefit the group of Assistants working in the organisation. Well, that is about to change today. Here are ten tips and tricks that will help you work collectively and sharing best practice in your EA network.
Working collectively and sharing best practice in your EA network
- Effective Meeting Management: This is the first step to take to ensure your network meetings are productive. You have to manage the meetings like you would a board or committee meeting. Make sure you have an agenda at each meeting, always have a chairperson (this could be consistent, or you could change it each month), write down actions and outcomes and stick to the subjects in the agenda and the timing of the meeting.
- What are the common issues? Every network should have some common ground. If you haven’t had a chance yet to write down your common problems formally, then this is a task for the next meeting. Once you realise how consistent and similar your issues are you can work to resolving the problems (and often the issues are similar despite the fact you all work in different teams and departments).
- Have a social aspect but don’t make it all about the socialising! Make sure you do organise regular drinks and get-togethers for all of the Assistants in the network. It is imperative that you all bond and the best way to do this is in an informal setting. Also, make sure that you have constructive get-togethers which have a training and educational element to them. I spoke a few years ago at the BlackRock Assistant network (which is an incredible network and one to follow). They had organised a presentation from a senior member of staff, an external trainer and had asked each Assistant to invite another Assistant from one of their client’s organisations. It was such a brilliant idea and showed the senior members of staff the power of the Assistant network. Of course, there were drinks and nibbles and a goodie bag too!
- How can you be more efficient as a team of Assistants? Again this should be part of every networking session. What can you be doing as a group of employees to drive the business forward and add to the bottom line? At the start of every year, set objectives for the network, work on a joint project that your network owns. What can you be doing to integrate your network into the business? Bobbie Saxon, EA at Diageo, shares a great example of this. Her Assistant team train other members of staff on how to be more productive, use the IT systems correctly and work with them on their time management. What a great way to use their skills and move the business forward.
- Ask your colleagues to attend the meetings. This is a great way to improve the overall business acumen of the Assistants. Ask them to present what they are doing in their team or department so that all of the Assistants start to understand what everyone else is doing and how they fit into the structure of the organisation.
- Contact your suppliers. Let your suppliers know that you have an internal Assistant network and again ask them to come along and talk about how the system or product works. In one of my internal networks, we ask the travel management company to come in, and we talked through the problems we had with their online booking tool, along with one of the IT team. We were able to get them to make adjustments for us that solved some of our issues.
- Pull together all of the standard procedures and create a process manual for all of your organisation’s Assistants. This doesn’t have to be done during the meeting you can set up a Slack channel or a OneNote document or Google Doc (whatever works best for your organisation). Ask everyone to add their best tips and tricks for dealing with procedures in your organisation and how they work best in the role.
- Make sure everyone is involved. You should ask each member of the network to provide an update on what is happening in their area, ask all new hires to come along as soon as they start their job, assign tasks and responsibilities so that all the Assistants feel like they have a stake in the network.
- If your network is currently a place where most people come to gripe about the job, this can be challenging. It won’t make the network useful or much fun! If you do have this issue a good way to tackle it is to have a discussion section during each meeting where people can vent. But make sure you time it well, so the venting section doesn’t take up the whole session. Make sure you have an action point after each section so that something can be done about the issue being discussed. It is incredible how many people stop moaning about something when they are asked actually to start resolving the problem!
- You are stronger together. I’ve had the pleasure of talking with Assistants who have set up internal networks which have gone on to change policy and enhance the role of the Assistants across the entire organisation. It can be done. You are much stronger together. An internal network shows that you are taking your role seriously and everyone else in the organisation should too. Make sure this message is frequently communicated in the network so that you share a common purpose.